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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery: Movies From Portland’s West Sylvan Middle School, 2014



Mr. Gilley teaches film, media arts and technology at West Sylvan Middle School in Portland, and he uses the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival as the basis for a class-wide project. According to Mr. Gilley, all of these great videos were produced 99% by the students, themselves. Mr. Gilley only taught them skills, facilitated, gave them feedback and advice.

They’re all great! Let’s check them out now!

First up is Hatchet, below. I knew I’d like it from the beginning, when our hero simply throws the pilot aside. Good use of the stock footage of a plane crashing in the lake, and hilarious just to use the same footage in reverse to show him taking off again. The “Eye of the Tiger” song for the montage was well-chosen. I liked the sparks that turn into the explosion when he’s making fire. Good stock footage of the porcupine (and I laughed at “Hey little fellow, I’m gonna kill you now”). Lots of fun, totally in the true irreverent spirit of the 90-Second Newbery!

Next up is Crispin: The Cross of Lead, below. Very resourceful green screen, good mother-death scene acting melodrama, and I liked the terrifying music when the steward comes and says “I’m gonna kill you!” . . . Good foot-level camera angle during the chase, and nice over-the-shoulder shots when Crispin meets Bear. Favorite dialogue: “My mother just died, so I am living alone in the woods.” “Sorry about that.” Nice sound effects for the duel too!

This next video, of Holes, starts off strong with a good coherent shoe-stealing scene that makes it clear how Stanley got blamed for a crime he didn’t commit. Again, good use of green screen and locations like the hill they used as a stand-in for the mountain. There was an effective variation of shots that kept visual interest, especially the POV shot when Zero is running away. Nice commitment to wardrobe with that great orange prison uniform. And was that the “Pina Colada” song at the end???

Next up is Because of Winn-Dixie. The establishing shots from the car were very effective in giving a sense of place for the story. Good brisk storytelling again, and again the variation of shots worked well. I love how you keep cutting, keeping everything moving! I liked the stop motion with the dog and the addition of the barking sound effects. Well done!

Next up is this fun Tale of Despereaux. It used the captions to explain the complicated plot well. I loved how at the beginning, the filmmaker barely showed the faces of the humans, which emphasized the POV of the rodents. And the special effect of him falling in the soup was priceless! Great duel and chase scene too. So awesome that they jump onto the cafeteria table! Breathtaking!

The music at the beginning of the next one, of Bud, Not Buddy, was a great choice. I liked the careful cinematography especially near the beginning of this one, like the effective detail shots of the picture of his dad. I especially liked our hero’s “this is corny!” reaction shot to the advice to “follow the yellow brick road.” Solid!

I also enjoyed this following adaptation of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, especially the exasperated way that Mr. Popper kept saying “What the heck?” at the beginning (I was halfway hoping that that would be the only line in the movie, just repeated different ways in different contexts). Good fast-forward montage of moving the furniture. I liked the cutting back and forth during the conversations. Good job on this!

We have two version of The Giver. In this first one, good use of black and white vs. color. I liked how the whole world turned color briefly when Jonas catches the apple. Great beard for The Giver! I liked the committed and energetic acting, especially of Jonas with all those closeups. Good use of green screen, especially for the “sledding” memory!

In this second version of The Giver, I liked how it started with the ending, then flashed back to the beginning. Super creepy costume for the Giver! GREAT shot of Jonas’ and the Giver’s hands touching and then whiteout to the memory of “releasing,” and then white out back!

We also have two versions of When You Reach Me. In this first version, the music at the beginning of the first really draws you in at the beginning. Great POV shot of when the friend gets hit! And very resourceful and effective job with the part where the Laughing Man saving him from the bus, good use of green screen!

Here’s the second version of When You Reach Me. Ha, I see you used the Giver costume for the Laughing Man! I liked the slow-down when the Laughing Man gets hit by the car there too. Good summing-up of the plot overall, and good acting.

Although Coraline isn’t a Newbery winner and so isn’t admissible for the film festival, this was one of the batch of submitted movies. I admired how when Coraline went through the portal she entered a psychedlic colorscape! And great fight scene between Coraline and her “other mother”!

Thanks so much for these movies, West Sylvan Middle School! Looking forward to featuring some of them at the upcoming Portland area screening on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Troutdale Library branch (2451 SW Cherry Park Rd, Troutdale, OR). 5-6 pm. Make your free reservation here.